Although decentralised networks are able to withstand most attacks, the internet is far from infallible. However, one mathematician believes that advanced geometry is the key to making the internet more robust.
Back in 2011, an earthquake that read nine on the Richter scale caused huge damage to the Japanese telecommunications infrastructure. According to NTT, a Japanese telecom company, 18 exchange buildings and 65,000 telegraph poles were destroyed, as well as 1.5 million fixed line circuits and 63,000 kilometres of cabling being damaged, and that was for NTT alone.
To prevent this type of damage happening again, Hiroshi Saito of NTT’s Network Technology Laboratories in Tokyo, has worked out how the shape of the network impacts on its chances of being destroyed by natural disasters such as earthquakes.
Saito starts with a hypothetical network, within which an earthquake occurs. The nodes within a fixed area all have an amount of probability of failing, so the key is to find out how to arrange the nodes so that they are in an area of least probability.
Using integral geometry Saito is able to prove a number of rules of thumb that can be used by network engineers to create more robust network designs. “This theoretical method explicitly reveals physical network design rules robust against earthquakes,” he says.
As an example, a route that passes through several nodes tends to form a zigzag shape. One of the rules says that shorter zigzags reduce the chance of a network intersecting a disaster area.
Using intensity data from a number of Japanese earthquakes he tested his theories. Saito superimposed different networks on to the earthquake data to see what would happen. The results showed that his ‘rules of thumb’ were indeed correct. “The analysis results are validated through empirical earthquake data,” he says.
Saito is hoping to change the way engineers design networks. “The proposed design method is the ﬁrst step in disaster management aiming at disaster avoidance,” he says. The idea is for the networks to be completely missed by any disaster.
If Saito’s ideas become mainstream, we could see a big change in the way networks are designed and that could potentially save lives in places where earthquakes occur.